That Stuff Can't Take the Heat
Copyright by Robert H. Baucom

 

As a sardonic youth of 19, I went to work for Convair in Fort Worth, Texas. The job title was "Instrumentation Mechanic", and was in the B-58 flight test program. The job title was really a misnomer as the first week, they sent me to the Jet Engine test stand to work with the "Then New" J-79 jet engines and I ended up with a secret clearance.

Two years later, in 1958, the older fellows at the Jet Engine test stand asked this Lubrications Engineer, "What's a grease we can put in our Boat Trailer wheel bearings, that won't wash out when we back it into the water?

Said engineer, got very deep voiced and important. Said, "On the actuator struts on the B-58 landing gear, we use Silicone Grease. It is practically impervious to heat, cold or water. Hearing this, four guys sneaked a sufficient amount of grease out the gate and packed their wheel bearings. So saying, the coming 4th of July weekend, they loaded up their boats and headed for Possum Kingdom Lake. (I learned about all this later)

All that he had told them ... was true ... except the silicone grease of that date, most certainly was not a high speed, high heat, roller bearing lubricant when subjected to a high bearing load. The boat persons ... nearly burned the axles off of their trailers.

I had only turned 21 yrs of age that month and was, by far, the youngest person at the test stand. The others, ranged in ages from 27 to 60. These older folk ... certainly didn't appreciate my comments.

"Hell fellers, why didn't you ask me? On my motorcycle, I use mollidium disulfide grease. Molecularly, it has an extra sulfur atom in its outer ring, causing it to have a high affinity to metal and petroleum. It practically plates the grease to the metal. It doesn't wash out. I read all about it in my British 'Motorcycle Mechanics' Magazine'. The Limeys have been using it for years. You know that dark metallic gray, anti seize compound we use on the engine mount bolts and the manifold bolts on the B-36 Engines? Get some on your hands and it turns them black. Doesn't wash off. In fact, it wears off. That's because there's a large amount of mollidium disulfide in it. On the flight line, they use that silicone grease goop on the landing gear struts. Those are very low speed bearings at the strut pivots. The tubes have bushings that are a low speed, sliding fit. The grease only comes into use when they lower or raise the landing gear. It's great for that. They certainly don't pack the wheel bearings on the B-58 with that silicone stuff."

The old folk were mad as hell at one Lubrications Engineer. There was some angry talk of applying a light layer of tar, before rolling him in feathers. The taunts became rather cruel, as they asked him, "What lubrication applications did you cover in college? Covered wagons and buckboards? How come Kid Baucom, our suicidal motorcycle nut, zipping through the rain on his murderbike; learned more out of an English Motorcycle Mag than you did in college?"

It got so bad, he transferred back up to the main building. He was VERY COOL to me from then on. Anytime I ran across him, he made a big production out of "Not Looking At Me". I didn't care, I'd had my "15 minutes of Fame".

He was a good example of several non mechanical type persons, that were good at studying and passing tests and ended up with engineering degrees in the '50's.

"Look here son. These engineers start with a higher salary than anyone except Doctors. I think you'd better major in engineering."

We won't mention that "Son" didn't even understand how the coaster brake worked on his bicycle. He should have been studying for "Vice President in Charge of Filing Fourth Copies".

RHB


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